Embracing the culture shock of WEst Timor

West Timor is an exotic place, and for western travelers, as well as Indonesian travelers it is almost certain to induce some kind of culture shock. A place that causes culture shock is a great travel destination! This article serves more general travel advice and does not just apply to West Timor. It is a guide about what it takes to have meaningful travel experiences in almost every country.

What is the essence of traveling?

Why do people choose to spend money on leisure travel? Some travel for food, others to identify with local culture or to just relax on in a mountain hut or on a lonely beach overlooking the immediate horizon? 

No matter what your motivation for traveling is, you will always make memories. These memories are the reason why traveling is not a temporary enjoyment because merely remembering those memories will create joy by itself. They will also educate and shape your character permanently.

 

It starts from when you start planning your trip, building up your anticipation and the joy of remembering a trip. Vacations don’t just cause short-term happiness, since remembering all the memorable experiences you had makes you happy as well. And those will last for a lifetime unless you develop dementia.

 

Don’t think of traveling as a temporary joy, like going for a rollercoaster ride or going to an expensive restaurant. Whenever you visit, you are investing in educating memories. However, some investments have a higher return, than others.

Step in to West Timor, Step out of your Comfort Zone

Having a unique travel experience requires the right mindset. This mindset can be acquired, even if you’re shy or an introvert. This mindset allows you to connect with local people in foreign countries really. For this, you need to step out of comfort zone. Stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean less comfort, although traveling to authentic, off the beaten path destinations is much easier if you don’t require accommodation with cable TV and a bathtub.
Stepping out of your comfort zone doesn’t mean plunging into the cold water all at once. You can take it gradually. A little goes a long way. Especially once you recognize the positive effects, these leap of faiths has on your well-being. So don’t feel intimidated by the phrase: expanding your comfort. The benefits you get from accepting a little bit of physical or mental discomfort outweigh the downsides by far.

Embracing Culture Shock

Culture shock is usually thought of negatively, as something that decimates a pleasant travel experience. Causing nervousness, anxiety, confusion and a feeling of alienation. However, once you embrace culture shock, it has a lot of positive effects on your mood. It’s hard to imagine unless you experienced it before, but it gives you a sense of excitement, curiosity, and euphoria. In a place, where you would have otherwise felt alienated, you suddenly feel home. I like to compare culture shock to going jogging, your knees will hurt the first time you do it, but eventually, you will catch that feeling of euphoria and become addicted. (although some people don”t get as euphoric as me when jogging but you catch the drift, right?)
If you get culture shocked or just generally anxious after arriving in a new place, remember that this is normal and goes away with time, maybe within a few hours, perhaps within a few days. If you have experienced enough culture shock to embrace it, you will have a culture shock once you return to your home country after a couple of months

Landing in Foreign Countries

There’s a likely chance that an initial feeling of fear will set in right away at the drive from the airport to your accommodation. Especially, when you’re hungry and just gotten off a long flight.  Whatever you might feel uneasy about, don’t internalize it. As cheesy as this might sound. Talk to a human, whether its the taxi driver, the receptionist, your tour guide or your Airbnb host. Even if you suck at making conversations, just keep doing it, because it will guarantee to lift your mood. Making a face to face contact and communication with a local will cure any anxiety or feeling of alienation.
Even if there’s too much of a language, you can still try and get in touch with other travelers. You can exchange advice, share struggles and perhaps share some of the travel or accommodation costs if going in the same direction.
If you still have trouble initiating conversation with anyone, consider hiring a tour guide for the first day to be able to be immersed in the local culture. Once you try this, there is no turning back anyhow. In addition to removing most aspects of a language barrier, tour guides can quickly become friends and help you experience the culture, nature and living situation just like a local. It’s an anthropologist’s wet dream! Remember to always negotiate a price before hiring a guide.